Ok, let me rephrase. We are going to give $900 million to an area which is totally controlled by an organization which is committed to wiping Israel off of the face of the earth?I guess it was to be expected, afterall, Gaza was a hotbed of Obama support…
Either way, help, my country has been hijacked… AP
The United States plans to offer more than $900 million to help rebuild Gaza after Israel’s invasion and to strengthen the Western-backed Palestinian Authority, U.S. officials said on Monday.
The money, which needs U.S. congressional approval, will be distributed through U.N. and other bodies and not via the , which rules Gaza, said one official.
“This money is for Gaza and to help strengthen the Palestinian Authority. It is not going to go to Hamas,” said the official, who asked not to be named as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton planned to announce the funding at a donors’ conference in Egypt next week.
Neither the United States nor Israel have direct contact with the Hamas movement which runs Gaza and remains formally committed to the destruction of the Jewish state.
The official said the pledge was a mix of money already earmarked for the Palestinians and some new funding.
“The package is still shaping up,” he said, when asked for specifics over how the money would be spent and a breakdown of old and new funding.
In December, the former Bush administration said it would give $85 million to the U.N. agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
The March 2 donors’ conference in Egypt’s Sharm el-Sheikh resort aims to raise humanitarian and rebuilding funds for Gaza after Israel’s invasion last December to suppress rocket fire against its cities.
Preliminary estimates put damage from the offensive, in which 1,300 Palestinians died, at nearly $2 billion.
Clinton’s bid to get “substantial” funds could face an uphill battle in Congress because Hamas continues to rule Gaza and the U.S. focus is on its own souring economy.
U.S. to Give $900 Million in Gaza Aid, Officials Say
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration intends to provide some $900 million to help rebuild Gaza after the Israeli incursion that ended last month, administration officials said Monday.
In an early sign of how the administration plans to deal with Hamas, the militant Islamist group that controls Gaza, an official said that the aid would not go to Hamas but that it would be funneled through nongovernmental organizations.
By seeking to aid Gazans but not Hamas, the administration is following the lead of the Bush administration, which sent money to Gaza through nongovernmental organizations. In December, it said it would give $85 million to the United Nations agency that provides aid to Palestinian refugees in the West Bank, Gaza, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.
The United States considers Hamas a terrorist organization, and the Bush administration refused to have any formal dealings with the group.
The aid will include new spending as well as money already set aside for the Palestinian Authority, and it will be formally announced next week when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton travels to a Palestinian donors’ conference in Sharm el Sheik, Egypt, the officials said.
The aid, first reported by Reuters, would have to be approved by Congress, where many lawmakers are skittish about even appearing to help Hamas until it renounces violence and recognizes Israel’s right to exist.
“None of the money will go to Hamas, it will be funneled through NGOs and U.N. groups,” said an administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk about the aid before Mrs. Clinton announced it.
The donors’ conference in Egypt is seeking to raise close to $2 billion to rebuild Gaza, which was devastated by the three-week war with Israel. Some of the $900 million from the United States will go to the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, officials said.
But even if the bulk of the money goes to Gaza, it will do little good unless Israel first opens the border crossing into the territory, said Daniel Levy, a senior fellow at the Century Foundation, a research organization in Washington.
“It’s a good effort, but the money can’t be spent unless materials can get into Gaza,” Mr. Levy said. “The next step is opening the border crossings, and that requires more than just signing a check.”
Hamas has demanded the opening of the crossings as part of truce negotiations being conducted through Egypt. Israel, which imposed an embargo after Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007, demands an end to rocket fire from Gaza, a halt to weapons smuggling and the release of a captive Israeli soldier.
After the donors’ conference in Egypt, Mrs. Clinton will make her first trip to Israel as secretary of state, Israeli officials said. She is expected to meet with Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister-designate.
Mrs. Clinton is also expected to travel to Ramallah in the West Bank for meetings with Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, and Salam Fayyad, the prime minister, whose Fatah organization is the principal rival to Hamas. Administration officials said it was unlikely that Mrs. Clinton would go to Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Foreign ties of nominee questioned
An independent inspector general will look into the foreign financial ties of Chas W. Freeman Jr., the Obama administration’s pick to serve as chairman of the group that prepares the U.S. intelligence community’s most sensitive assessments, according to three congressional aides.
The director of national intelligence, Dennis C. Blair, last Thursday named Mr. Freeman, a veteran former diplomat, to the chairmanship of the National Intelligence Council, known inside the government as the NIC. In that job, Mr. Freeman will have access to some of America’s most closely guarded secrets and be charged with overseeing the drafting of the consensus view of all 16 intelligence agencies.
His selection was praised by some who noted his articulateness and experience as U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a senior envoy to China and other nations. But it sparked concerns among some members of Congress from both parties, who asked the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s inspector general, Edward McGuire, to investigate Mr. Freeman’s potential conflicts of interest.
Mr. Freeman has not submitted the financial disclosure forms required of all candidates for senior public positions, according to the general counsel’s office of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
Nor did Mr. Blair seek the White House’s approval before he announced the appointment of Mr. Freeman, said Mr. Blair’s spokeswoman, Wendy Morigi.
“The director did not seek the White House’s approval,” Ms. Morigi said. “In addition to his formal background security investigation, we expect that the White House will undertake the typical vetting associated with senior administration assignments.”
Among the areas likely to be scrutinized in the vetting process are Mr. Freeman’s position on the international advisory board of the China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC). The Chinese government and other state-owned companies own a majority stake in the concern, which has invested in Sudan and other countries sometimes at odds with the United States, including Iran.
Mr. Freeman is also president of the nonprofit educational organization Middle East Policy Council (MEPC), which paid him $87,000 in 2006, and received at least $1 million from a Saudi prince. He also has chaired Projects International, a consulting firm that has worked with foreign companies and governments.
Lindsay Hamilton, a spokeswoman for Rep. Steve Israel, a Democrat from New York who sits on the House Appropriations Committee’s select intelligence oversight panel that funds the classified budgets for the intelligence community, said her boss had been in touch with Mr. McGuire, who was appointed by the first director of national intelligence, John D. Negroponte.
“Congressman Israel spoke with DNI inspector McGuire. The inspector said he would look into the matter. And the congressman is pleased with his response.” Two other congressional aides also said the inspector general would start his inquiries soon.
Ms. Morigi said only that Mr. McGuire was “reviewing the letter.”
The ranking member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, Rep. Peter Hoekstra, Michigan Republican, said the questions arising from Mr. Freeman’s past associations and business relationships should disqualify him from the NIC post.
“What kind of vetting process did Blair go through on this?” he asked. He added that the disclosures about Mr. Freeman’s relationships “may give Blair an out now. If he is on the board of these kinds of companies, it may provide a rather easy out to disqualify him.”
Topping the list of concerns will be Mr. Freeman’s links to CNOOC. He joined the board of international advisers for the Chinese concern in March 2004, one year before the company made an unsuccessful bid to purchase the American energy company Unocal. Since then, CNOOC has been a source of worry for lawmakers from both parties as well as the Treasury Department as it looks to discourage oil field investment in Iran.
The State Department looked into whether CNOOC violated the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act at the end of 2007 when the company announced a deal to help develop the North Pars gas field.
President Obama has supported sanctions against businesses investing in Iran. In August, his campaign put out a press release titled: “What McCain Won’t Tell You About Iran,” highlighting the lobbying work for CNOOC by Charlie Black, a strategist for Republican presidential candidate John McCain.
“CNOOC is among those companies that appears to be capitalizing on the U.S.-led effort to isolate Iran economically, particularly in the energy sector,” said Roger Robinson, the president and chief executive officer of Conflict Securities Advisory Group, a Washington-based risk management company that specializes in identifying and profiling public companies with business ties to states accused of sponsoring terrorism.
Mr. Freeman’s connection to CNOOC could oblige him to recuse himself from some matters regarding China as well as Myanmar. In October 2007, CNOOC’s chief financial officer publicly refused to divest from that country a month after army soldiers opened fire on a crowd protesting the ruling junta, suggesting instead that CNOOC would increase its investments.
The incident prompted the United States to toughen sanctions on the junta, according to statements at the time from the State Department.
Mr. Freeman’s ties with Middle East Policy Council (MEPC) also have come under scrutiny. According to the 2006 tax returns for the organization – considered a nonprofit by the Internal Revenue Service – 11 donors contributed a total of more than $2.7 million that year.
MEPC’s acting director, Jon Roth, said the organization would not disclose the names of the donors, but added, “If the government needs something, we will cooperate with them.”
In 2007, Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud announced that he had provided a gift of $1 million to the MEPC for its endowment. Prince Alwaleed’s attempt to give New York money after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks was refused by New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.
Buck Revell, the FBI’s associate deputy director responsible for investigations and intelligence from 1980 to 1991, said the receipt of Saudi money alone is not a reason to disqualify Mr. Freeman.
“Saudi money is everywhere. It is in the George Bush library, it is in the Clinton library, it’s everywhere. So that in and of itself is not disqualifying,” Mr. Revell said. “But how that money was used – was it used for the correct purposes, was it diverted to other entities or other organizations – that would raise issues of security. If it is going to organizations that say Israel should be wiped from the face of the earth and other stuff, that would raise issues.”
Another issue of concern is the client base for Projects International. On its Web site, the company lists among its clients Gulf Catering Co., a subsidiary of Agility Defense & Government Services, which prepares the meals for the dining facilities that serve U.S. troops in Iraq.
In 2005, Gulf Catering Co. was accused of offering a $50,000 bribe to an Army chief warrant officer in Iraq to win a bid to provide the U.S. military in Iraq with napkins and cutlery, according to an investigation by the Army Criminal Investigation Command first reported by USA Today in 2007.
Voice of experience
Three former NIC chairmen and one former vice chairman told The Washington Times that Mr. Freeman’s business ties to China, Saudi Arabia and other nations should be vetted before Mr. Freeman takes his post.
Fritz W. Ermarth, who served as chairman of the NIC between 1988 and 1993, said, “Mr. Freeman’s political and business associations will be or should be vetted and then reviewed in a polygraph examination for potential hazards to security.”
He said the “political correctness” of Mr. Freeman’s past associations “will not be and should not be at issue from a security point of view. But they are legitimate issues for argument and discussion from a political point of view, where the question is not just the orientation of Mr. Freeman, but the orientation of the administration.”
Henry Rowen, who chaired the council from 1981 to 1983, said, “There are all kinds of perception issues here.”
He added, “He is on the board of CNOOC. I don’t think it should matter or that alone disqualifies him. Of course this is legitimate to look at, you have to look at the whole record. It has to be looked at, but I don’t see anything to disqualify him.”
Robert Hutchings, who headed the NIC from 2003 to 2005, said the same criteria that apply to other senior U.S. administration officials should apply to Mr. Freeman. “If he recuses himself [on issues where there might be a conflict of interest] or places his assets in a blind trust, so there is no question of him benefiting – so long as he can play by these rules, it should be a fine choice,” Mr. Hutchings said.
Currently diplomat-in-residence at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, Mr. Hutchings said Mr. Freeman’s business expertise could be an asset in his new post. As NIC chairman, Mr. Hutchings said, he hired two national intelligence officers, dealing with international real estate and software, who had business backgrounds.
Herb Meyer, a deputy chairman of the NIC during the Reagan administration, said business connections with China and Saudi Arabia were a concern, but he was more worried about Mr. Freeman’s views.
“What concerns me more is what he has said and written. What matters here is his judgment and that seems to be the point that everyone is skating away from,” Mr. Meyer said. “Can you imagine if I had stood up and explained away Tiananmen Square? He does not have the intellectual fire power to sort through the intelligence and reach a plausible conclusion.”
Mr. Meyer was referring to a 2006 e-mail attributed to Mr. Freeman saying China was justified in cracking down on students protesting at Tiananmen Square in 1989 and should have acted sooner to suppress the civil disobedience.
The Washington Times could not corroborate that the e-mail that was reportedly sent by Mr. Freeman to members of the China Security Listserv, a private group of policy analysts. But it tracks with other public statements from Mr. Freeman, such as his characterization in an April 25 speech to the National War College Alumni Association that described Tibetan protests last year as a “race riot.” Mr. Freeman did not respond to requests for comment.
Other China analysts praised Mr. Freeman, who is said to speak Mandarin Chinese better than almost anyone else in the Foreign Service and who interpreted for President Nixon on his groundbreaking trip to China in 1972.
David Lampton, director of the China Studies Program at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies of Johns Hopkins University, said, “We’re lucky to have a person of this caliber. He’s an excellent mind in general and has long experience in the area of the world I know best.”
The Washington advocacy director of Human Rights Watch said, however, that Mr. Freeman’s nomination sends the wrong message.
“A capacity to make moral distinctions may not be a prerequisite for being a good intelligence analyst,” Tom Malinowski said. “But for such a high-profile appointment, it would still be wise for President Obama to weigh the message sent by choosing someone who has so consistently defended and worked for the clenched fists the president so eloquently challenged in his inaugural address.”
World Net Daily – Emboldened by President Barack Obama’s announcement he will close the Guantanamo facility housing suspected terrorists, one of the most notorious leftist terrorists of the 1970s and 1980s has written the president, asking him for help in finding a “former comrade-in-arms” missing for 14 years, and closing his letter with “Allahu akbar! … yours in revolution.”
By Belinda Cao and Judy Chen
Feb. 11 (Bloomberg) — China should seek guarantees that its $682 billion holdings of U.S. government debt won’t be eroded by “reckless policies,” said Yu Yongding, a former adviser to the central bank.
The U.S. “should make the Chinese feel confident that the value of the assets at least will not be eroded in a significant way,” Yu, who now heads the World Economics and Politics Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said in response to e-mailed questions yesterday from Beijing. He declined to elaborate on the assurances needed by China, the biggest foreign holder of U.S. government debt.
Benchmark 10-year Treasury yields climbed above 3 percent this week on speculation the government will increase borrowing as President Barack Obama pushes his $838 billion stimulus package through Congress. Premier Wen Jiabao said last month his government’s strategy for investing would focus on safeguarding the value of China’s $1.95 trillion foreign reserves.
China may voice its concerns over U.S. government finances and the potential for a weaker dollar when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visits China on Feb. 20, according to He Zhicheng, an economist at Agricultural Bank of China, the nation’s third-largest lender by assets. A People’s Bank of China official, who didn’t wish to be identified, declined to comment on the telephone.
“In talks with Clinton, China will ask for a guarantee that the U.S. will support the dollar’s exchange rate and make sure China’s dollar-denominated assets are safe,” said He in Beijing. “That would be one of the prerequisites for more purchases.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Jiang Yu said yesterday that talks with Clinton would cover bilateral relations, the financial crisis and international affairs, according to the Xinhua news agency.
The dollar fell 0.6 percent to 89.96 yen today on concern that the U.S. government’s bank-rescue plan will fail to revive lending. Treasuries declined as investors prepared to bid for a record $21 billion sale of 10-year notes today. The yield on the benchmark 10-year note rose three basis points to 2.83 percent.
“These comments are some sort of a threat but of course China can never get such a guarantee,” said Thomas Harr, a currency strategist at Standard Chartered Plc in Singapore. The U.S. may assure China that it will clean up the financial system and that it “won’t push for a weaker dollar but they can’t promise not to increase the fiscal deficit,” he said.
U.S. government bonds returned 14 percent last year including price gains and reinvested interest, the most since rallying 18.5 percent in 1995, according to indexes compiled by Merrill Lynch & Co. Concern that the flood of bonds would overwhelm demand caused Treasuries to lose 3.08 percent in January, the steepest drop in almost five years, Merrill data show.
China’s loss of more than $5 billion from investing $10.5 billion of its reserves in New York-based Blackstone Group LP, Morgan Stanley and TPG Inc. since mid-2007 may increase its demand for the relative safety of Treasuries.
“The government will be a net buyer of Treasuries in the short term because there’s no sign they have changed their strategy,” said Zhang Ming, secretary general of the international finance research center at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing. “But personally, I don’t think we should increase holdings because the medium- and long-term risks are quite high.”
Bill Gross, co-chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co., said on Feb. 5 the Federal Reserve will have to buy Treasuries to curb yields as debt sales increase. Fed officials said Jan. 28 they were “prepared” to buy longer-term Treasuries.
“The biggest concern for China to continue buying U.S. Treasuries is that if Obama’s stimulus doesn’t work out as expected, the Fed may have to print money to cover the deficit,” said Shen Jianguang, a Hong Kong-based economist at China International Capital Corp., partly owned by Morgan Stanley. “That will cause a dollar slump.”
China’s foreign-exchange reserves grew about $40 billion in the fourth quarter, the least since mid-2004, as an end to yuan appreciation since July prompted investors to pull money out.
The world’s third-biggest economy grew 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter, the slowest pace in seven years. Policy makers announced a 4 trillion yuan ($585 billion) economic stimulus plan in November to spur domestic demand.
Yu said China has no plans to channel its reserves toward stimulating its own economy because its trade surplus is sufficient to fund any import needs. China’s trade surplus was $39 billion in January.
China “should diversify its reserves away from U.S. Treasuries if the value of China’s foreign-exchange reserves is in danger of being inflated away by the U.S. government’s pump- priming,” he said.
China may try to link trade and currency policy disputes to its future investment in Treasuries, said Lu Zhengwei, an economist in Shanghai at Industrial Bank Co., a Chinese lender partly owned by a unit of HSBC Holdings Plc.
U.S. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner accused China on Jan. 22 of “manipulating” the yuan to give an unfair advantage to its exporters. The currency has dropped 0.16 percent this year to 6.8342 per dollar, following a 21 percent gain since a peg against the dollar was abandoned in July 2005.
“China can also use this opportunity to get a promise from the U.S. not to make inappropriate requests on bilateral trade and the Chinese yuan,” Lu said. “We can’t afford more yuan appreciation as the economy is facing a serious slowdown.”
Not sure who knob they had to polish to get them to vote for the Pork Bill (stimulus) Nice to know they voted on this before, you could even read it. So much for “promised the most transparent administration in history”.
but I received this form letter from our piece of shit government.
email@example.com to me
show details Feb 12 (2 days ago) Reply
Thank you for your message. On behalf of President Obama, we appreciate hearing from you. The President has promised the most transparent administration in history, and we’re committed to listening to and responding to you.
In order to better handle the millions of electronic messages we’re receiving and respond more quickly, we’ve implemented a new contact form on our website:
Please note that this web form has replaced firstname.lastname@example.org. That email address is no longer monitored, so we encourage you to resubmit your message through the link above. Thank you for using the web form and helping us improve communications with you.
The Presidential Correspondence Team
So these three Assholes are traitors